World-wide, tea is consumed more than any other liquid except for water. People of all ages have historically enjoyed the infusion from the Camellia Sinensis tree as a beverage as well as for its medicinal properties. Modern research has shown that tea does indeed have many health affecting qualities; and numerous publications extolling the benefits of tea have contributed to the tremendous growth in its consumption in the U. S.
Historically, tea's origins date back to around 2700 BC. It is thought to have first been discovered in the mountainous areas of China's far western Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. It was originally taken as a detoxifying medicine though it grew to great social prominence during the Tang (620-907 AD) and Song (960-1279 AD) Dynasties. In addition to tea's attributed health benefits, the high level of "tea culture" was appealing to people outside of China as well. Since the fifth century AD, tea has been exported by land and sea throughout Asia before it reached Europe in 1610. It was Dutch traders that first brought tea to Europe but the British who greatly developed it, transplanting it to India in the early 1800's.
There are three basic categories of tea which differ according to the manner in which they are produced. Green, Oolong and Black teas each have their respective subcategories such as white, yellow, light or heavily fermented, or compressed. The diverse environmental conditions in which the plants are grown, the age and number of leaves used, and the final appearance of the leaves also contribute to creating the enormous variety of products on the market.